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» Saturday, October 20, 2012Serendipity On the Victory Trail
Didn't sleep eight hours, but I think I may have managed seven. Must see what happened to the feather pillows they usually offer. (They just weren't left in the closet. I got some after breakfast. Yay!)
On the other hand, I really wanted oatmeal, not gruel. Had to add nuts to it just to thicken it a little.
We gave the critters their morning care, then set out for Yorktown. Because I was unsure of the name of the destination, we just picked out "Yorktown Battlefield Monument" from the dropdown list on the GPS. This should not have been our first destination, but in fact it was a nice piece of serendipity. Had we not done this, we probably would have checked out the Victory Center first, then had to walk outside in the hottest part of the day. As it was, we had blue sky and sun, but cool breezes as well, on our walk.
The route we chose took us up Interstate 64, and then through surface streets to a pretty area of homes and trees, directly to the monument. This is set on the bluff above the York River, and the tall beautiful white spire of the monument against the blue of the water and the green banks opposite and the brilliant blue of the sky made a lovely photograph. The Yorktown Victory Monument was actually proposed several years after the battle, but not built until a century later, so that it is in typical Victorian style: it simply screams "Victorian" when you look at it: white marble with "Liberty" perched atop, and exquisite bas relief figures on all four sides.
Despite its beauty, I was drawn to the water first, drinking up the sight of the estuary and enjoying the brine scent in the air from the nearby Atlantic. I've been homesick for the ocean! It was only until I had drunk it all in that I turned around and walked back to read all sides of the monument, which included an endorsement from the DAR and a plaque from the French.
The plan should have, at this point, to go back to either the National Park Service Yorktown Battlefield visitor's center, which is free, or the Yorktown Victory Center, which is run by the state and charges admission. However, I noticed that there were colonial-looking buildings down the street from the monument. James was worried that we might be bothering the locals, but as we walked down the street we saw that they were blocked off from through traffic so visitors could walk freely. Basically these are buildings that have been restored to their look at the time of the siege of Yorktown, but some are private homes and some have been converted into shops.
So, in the cool brightness, we walked down the street checking out each of the buildings. One of the homes has been turned into a restaurant, the Carrot Tree. Another sells prim gifts, one has books and Yorktown souvenirs, another sells silver and more costly gifts. We walked down all the way to a building called York Hall, which has a substantial gift shop full of unique crafts made by local artists, from quilts to birdhouses, home decor to cards, and some books, including some cookbooks James picked up, and CDs. I was completely lost when I found some beautiful cards that used a kaliedoscope technnique with photographs which are then embellished., and also two different Christmas music albums done with colonial-era instruments including dulcimers and harpsichords. We had a nice chat with the clerk, had a drink, and went outside to explore further. There was a plinth on the front lawn that commemorated Yorktown dead in conflicts that go all the way back to Bacon's Rebellion. I've never seen a memorial monument that commemorates Bacon's Rebellion before!
We walked down to the church around the corner, enjoying the sight of three little girls who were riding about the street on their bicycles. With the street shut down, they were perfectly safe riding up and down the pavement, and were having a great time.
We turned about there and retraced our steps, stopping at the "general store" which carried postcards, books, and souvenirs. I bought several postcards and then had to go back and pick up a novel that was about a Rhode Island colonial physician. The proprietor was originally from Massachusetts. We also stopped at the prim store, where I bought a little cross-stitch kit of a pineapple Christmas tree. Finally we stopped at the Nelson House, which, some years ago, was York Hall. The Nelson House is particularly notable because it survived that siege of Yorktown with several battle scars. Yes, there are still cannonballs embedded in one wall and divots taken out of the brick! James could actually reach up and touch a cannonball fired from a British ship in 1781! How cool is that?
We were hungry, so we decided to go to the Yorktown Victory Center to see about getting tickets and possibly tracking down something to eat. This route takes you by the Yorktown "Riverwalk," a combination of beach, riverfront restaurants and motels, a snazzy shopping area, and embarcation for schooner rides. A clerk helped us decide which ticket to get, and told us the best restaurant in the area was the one we had just walked past, the Carrot Tree. So we went outside, waited a few minutes for the free shuttle, and hopped on to go back to the colonial area.
Well, it was a delicious meal! This is a tiny place, in a cottage space, but the food is wonderful. Both James and I had the "Powhatan Platter," an open-face turkey sandwich that comes with a salad. This was fresh turkey breast, not that dreadful turkey loaf, on homemade sandwich bread, with ample gravy, and the salad was of baby greens with chopped cucumbers/tomatoes/onions. James had a honey cider vinegar dressing that was just outstanding, but I went out on a limb and tried the mint melon yogurt dressing. It was wonderful, with a mild mint taste with a mild vinegar on the back end, and no taste of yogurt at all. Really, really delicious.
After lunch we took the trolley back to the Victory Center to check out the outside and inside exhibits. This is the anniversary weekend of the surrender at Yorktown, so they had several demonstrations and a small encampment. We talked to a young woman who hand-made her own period clothing, a re-enactor with a truly dangerous looking halberd (which, at that point in time, was only for ceremonial use in his role as a sergeant; he used it mainly to keep order in the ranks), and two other re-enactors manning a campaign tent. We peeked in several other of the tents, including the General's, and inspected the camp kitchen (lots of pots over the fire).
Next we looked over the farmstead, where two women were exhibiting spinning and weaving, checked out the turkeys, ducks, and chickens in the farmyard, and finally joined the crowd for an exhibition of militia marksmanship. Several "volunteers" were extracted from the crowd and "drilled" before the minutemen gave a musket-firing exhibition, and then two Redcoats did the same.
The indoor exhibit building was excellent. It includes a timeline of the Revolution, profiles of some of the people affected by the war, including Mary Jemison, who I read of years ago in Lois Lenski's Indian Captive, a Seneca tribesman, two slaves, a Loyalist, farmers, and others, and finally a gallery which concentrates on the battle itself, with memorabilia including maps, charts, objects belonging to both British and American sides, paintings, and items from everyday life, like pipes, snuffboxes, Bibles, manuals, farm implements, and more. One of the most interesting exhibits was about "the Betsy," one of many ships that the British scuttled in Yorktown Harbor in order to blockade the port. An archaeological expedition has dived into the harbor and recovered items from the wreck, ships' parts and personal items.
(I overheard something a bit sad while checking out the farmstead kitchen. The Victory Center is a bit of a wreck, surrounded by fencing while they build an extension on to the building. Eventually it will not just be a museum devoted to the battle of Yorktown, but one covering the entire Revolutionary War. Unfortunately this means some exhibits may not be included, and the people at the kitchen believed that the "Betsy" exhibit would not survive.)
We also checked out another militia encampment behind the building and got to see two artillery pieces being fired off, a small cannon and a mortar. Here one of the artillery officers was a woman, something you wouldn't have seen here back in 1976 when I first visited.
At this point it was closing time. We wandered back through the farm and checked out the gift shop. I bought both the Yorktown and Jamestown visitors' guides and—surprise!—yet another CD of Christmas music. For a tiny gift shop, this had an outstanding selection of Revolutionary War books for both adults and children.
We went back to the hotel via a different route, which ended up with us driving past the Kroger we got dinner from last night. I asked James if we could stop at A.C. Moore, which always has things that Michaels and JoAnn do not. While, sadly, they have quit selling sweatshirts, the little decorative wood pieces, and real pheasant feathers, they did have something I never see in other craft stores, the little metal-look plastic frames for cross-stitch ornaments. I bought a variety for ten dollars. Plus I found a nice pattern book. Alas, they had mailbox covers, but I had no sooner decided that I would buy yet another Christmas one, even though the last two have been stolen off our mailbox, than I noticed they didn't have any Christmas-themed ones yet. I was hoping they had some Christmas banners, but none of those yet either.
And then back to our temporary hearth. Television is still a fright tonight!